Currently based in London, Courtney specialises in photographic print production while refining a photo zine called ‘Biscuit’, and working on a photobook ‘Youthman’, to be released later this year.
Friday 13th November 2015 was my birthday. I’d been sent to Paris Photo on behalf of my company, and I was ecstatic to say the least. I’ve been to Paris a few times, but this was special – I was trusted to represent my company at a prestigious event, and I was able to do it with a friend.
We were exhausted from a week of networking, but decided to make the most of the uncharacteristically warm weather before the journey home later that evening. I had my head in the clouds that day, enjoying the quiet of the park, the architecture, the feeling of peaceful stillness, and was mainly fascinated by the grandeur of the sculptures in the public areas. I thought it was beautiful that these stone guardians watched over the people of Paris as they met, slept and played in the ponds.
I went out for dinner on returning to London, and was in such a haze of glorious distraction that I did not notice the dozens of missed calls and messages. The information was almost impossible to process – the time between our train back and the first shots was minimal, and I didn’t fully understand what had happened. I called my mum to let her know I’d gotten back to the UK safely, and she didn’t even know it was happening – half a bottle of wine in, she was celebrating my birthday for me. I had friends at my place over the following days for drinks and dinners, but the celebrations were jaded, and I just felt empty for some time afterwards.
Coming that close to tragedy changes you a bit, and brings you closer to the realisation of your own mortality. We spent time in three of the shooting locations on that day, and we kept thinking that the shooters couldn’t have been far away from us the entire time. We weren’t even there when the shots were fired, but you feel so tied to the event that you can’t quite fit the pieces together of how you should be feeling.
We got our negatives developed that week, and seeing the place pre-event in a post-event context was just devastating. I think about the people in those pictures often, and hope with sincerity they’re still going about their daily business.